The hitting coach for the Yankees High-A Tampa Tarpons talks with Pinstripe Alley about a variety of topics that will be published in two parts. Here is part one:
Dan Kelly - At what point in your own playing career, either high school or college did you realize that you wanted to go down a coaching path?
Joe Migliaccio - I was at Oral Roberts University for my senior year, and just crushed with injuries and I could see the writing on the wall at that point. I had an internship at a financial group... a few days of being in a suit it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like what I wanted to do, be in a cubicle for eight hours a day... I was hired right after my senior year into the Jayhawk league, a summer collegiate league...
I ended up getting hired by Siena college... I got hired there by Tony Rossi, I believe it’s his 51st year there this year, he is the longest-tenured head coach in Division One athletics. So, to be able to learn from him in my first year of coaching... I don’t know if there could have been a more perfect situation for me. Credit to him for taking a chance on a guy who never coached before. He really taught me how to be organized, communicate with the players, make sure everything is set up before it needs to be. He really molded me, and I really loved my time there.
I was there for about a year and a half and I moved on to Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO).... when I got there they had an awesome team, there was a hitting coach there by the name of Dillion Lawson who was there for a few weeks before he took a job with the Houston Astros and he is my current boss with the Yankees as our hitting coordinator.
DK - I actually had a question about Dillion on my list, and you just answered if you had overlapped at the college level. So that is where you guys first met?
JM - It actually gets deeper than that if you want to go down that path.
DK - Sure.
JM - ... I was recruited by Morehead State, by a coach named Dillion Lawson. So crazy enough, he recruited me out of Junior College... After the season at SEMO, the head coach Steve Bieser got the job at the University of Missouri, so thankfully he brought me along, I was a graduate assistant there. Dillion came back from the Houston Astros to be the hitting coach, so for the third time we were working together. It was awesome having Dillion back ... and learning everything he learned while with the Astros.
DK - Dillion is know for his progressive stances on using technology to identify what is really working and what is not. Is he the figure that got you into that way of thinking, or had you already picked up on that along the way?
JM -.... One of the moments that really kind of sparked it for me with his philosophy on coaching and development, I was preparing a defensive powerpoint to give to the players about what we were going to do. I showed it to Dillion to get his thoughts, he gave me awesome feedback and at the end of it he just said, “Ok, can you prove it?” I just kind of looked at him and was like, what do you mean? Can you prove what we want to teach them is the ideal way? I was speechless, at that point I just changed my entire philosophy, and was like, Oh, OK, now I understand! ... in general when we are talking to players or other coaches, it all comes back to “that is awesome, but can you prove that it works?” I’ll never ask a player to do something that I can’t prove works. I think that is crucial to the way that we develop players.
DK - You moved on to the University of Iowa coaching staff, and the Yankees made two hires from that staff, yourself, and Desi Druschel. Was it more of that “can you prove it” type mentality that made the Yankees look at Iowa’s coaching staff and make two hires for key coaching positions?
JM - Iowa was established around college and even professional baseball as a very analytical and technology-driven program... It is a first class program in any direction you look at it. They were really established on the technology side, and I was able to come in and bring the pitch recognition training and swing decision training to the program. It really jived well with what they were already utilizing and practicing.
Desi is one of the best pitching coaches I’ve ever been around. You could sit in the office and listen to him talk, and it just blows your mind over and over again, its like “oh my goodness”. Just a phenomenal person to begin with and and a great baseball coach as well. The same philosophy as well, this is what we do and this is why we do it, and here are our results....
DK - Now you moved to the pro game, what was the biggest transition in moving from a college program to a professional organization?
JM - The most obvious one from the get-go is that there is a lot more Spanish in professional baseball than there is in college baseball. Not being bilingual was a disadvantage for me. That is something that is on the daily training for myself, it’s hard to learn a language but any time you can speak multiple languages in professional baseball it is only going to work to your advantages. So that was a big adjustment trying to find somebody to translate, and translate it the right way. If I couldn’t translate it and I was with the guy one-on-one, could I give them a cue, could I point them in the right direction without really even using words...
... Another big difference is that in college you play about 56 games... in professional baseball the whole season is about 140 games, give or take. It’s a lot longer than people realize.
Another thing was that within the Yankees organization, from top to bottom winning is important. Its incredibly important, and at the same time development is critically important. Within college baseball you had this full fall season to strictly focus on development. Then you get to the spring... it’s like hey we’ve got to go win and win now. In professional baseball these players are being asked to show up to the field at noon, or one o’clock and get development time in and go through their training regiment take a little bit of a break and then go play a game.
So to be able to manage the development side and go hand-and-hand with winning, that was an adjustment... Once the season got going obviously the season was really good. The players have been there for years so they knew how it worked. It just goes around in a circle, we are going to continue to train, we are going to continue to develop you as a player. Ultimately in a game it might be a little uncomfortable, but here in a week and a half or two weeks you are really going to see yourself making strides in the game.
We’ll have more of this interview with Joe Migliaccio tomorrow. Please check back as we discuss some players who stood out in his first season, his impression of Estevan Florial, and how he has been communicating with players after the 2020 season was canceled.